When Mark Iacofano ’84 was a kid, he dreamed about playing major league baseball. He lettered his junior and senior year on UD’s varsity baseball team but lacked a few of the key skills that he would need to make it in the majors.
“I couldn’t hit, and I couldn’t run,” Iacofano said. “But I was determined to at least have a career in the sports industry.”
He moved behind the scenes, so to speak, and worked his way up from directing and producing small college football games to iconic games like Michigan’s The Big Chill, the Frozen Diamond Face-off, gold medal Olympic hockey games, and countless professional and college hockey, baseball, basketball and football games.
“I want to make sports shows great for the people who can’t be in the arena or stadium,” said Iacofano, who expertly stitches together camera shots, graphics, replays, promotions and player storylines to create a seamless experience for the fan sitting on the couch at home.
“I never want to disturb the flow of the game,” Iacofano said. There are pre- and post -game shows too that often last late into the night. Iacofano stays until the bitter end.
An MLB game, for example, involves upwards of 30 people who all take their cues from Iacofano, a 20-time Emmy award winner. Golden statues aside, producing and directing a February 2017 basketball game between Dayton and St. Joseph’s from UD Arena was “a surreal experience I won’t soon forget,” said Iacofano.
The self-described Flyer Fanatic hadn’t been back to the Arena in 33 years but, Iacofano said, it was worth the wait. Especially when Tony Caruso, UD’s equipment manager and Iacofano’s former baseball coach, gave him a personal courtside tour during warm-ups. A consummate professional, Iacofano stayed impartial during the game but admits to celebrating later.
For a guy whose career revolves around watching sports, “it was definitely a bucket list moment for me,” he said.
For Alanná Gibson ’14, pursuing a passion isn’t something that’s scheduled, a box to check off once a month. It’s woven into the
everyday fabric of her life.
It’s the jewelry business, La Bia Rose, she began with a friend, dedicated to creating pieces that promote body positivity, celebrate multiculturalism and give back to local women.
It’s in the way she volunteers with the Rosella French Porterfield Foundation, an organization focused on literacy that’s currently on a mission to give away thousands of free books to children, youth groups and schools.
And it’s in the way Gibson, who received a master’s in English from UD, has tutored children for Youth on a Mission Ministry for the past five years.
What does she have to say about her array of community involvement?
“I’ve just been living life and helping people,” Gibson said.
But her commitment to service hasn’t gone unnoticed: On March 22, Columbus, Ohio, print and media design company RWHC awarded Gibson its 2017 Social Change and Community Philanthropy Honoree award. The accolade also came with an unexpected recognition from the Ohio House of Representatives commending Gibson for her work. Chandra Reeder ’87, RWHC’s owner, nominated Gibson for the award after a more than 10-year professional relationship; fittingly, they met when Gibson, then just 10 years old, was selling handmade dolls at a local event.
Reeder notes Gibson’s impressive family resume as well: R.E. Shurney, Gibson’s great-grandfather, worked at NASA during the mid-20th century. Among his contributions was the invention of tires used on the space buggy for the Apollo 15 mission in 1972.
“Alanná has selflessly demonstrated her commitment and dedication and used her creative energy to make an impact in the community in which she lives by taking a stand to raise awareness, fight for and create solutions to address social injustices in her community,” said Reeder, also noting Gibson’s tireless work ethic and Christ-centered focus.
For Gibson, the award was something she hadn’t anticipated: “Winning was a complete surprise. I never do anything for recognition … I’m very much a behind-the-scenes person,” she said. “I’m not used to getting attention for the work that I do. I just felt gratitude — that someone is paying attention.”
When she’s not busy with other projects, Gibson performs with MadLab, a theater group in Columbus, and Aharen Honryu Keisen Wa No Kai, an organization dedicated to preserving the culture and dance of Okinawa, Japan.
It’s also clear that Columbus itself, the town where she grew up and now resides, is another of her passions: “I always call it my headquarters. It has a lot going on, but people are still very friendly. It’s very diverse; it’s amazing that I can do all these things here,”
Doing all these things, indeed. For Gibson, it’s exactly how she wants to live and inspire others.
“I do this because it’s part of me and I love doing it. You never know how your passion will affect someone else,” she said.
Separated by nearly 2,000 miles, two sisters — both diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer — had not seen each other in 13 years. And with limited resources, a reunion seemed impossible. A single plane ticket closed the gap between Alabama and California, and the siblings were able to spend the holidays together one last time.
“Their story really touched my heart,” said Susan Wehr Worline, a 2004 graduate with a master’s degree in educational administration. “Family is so important. I have a sister, and if I couldn’t see her at a time of crisis because of a lack of funds it would be very difficult. That’s one reason I started Flying for Hope, to give people with financial challenges the opportunity to be with their loved ones in times of crisis.”
The original impetus came from a Facebook post. Her cousin had a plane ticket he couldn’t use and offered it to Worline, who suggested he donate it to a local hospice organization. As the business director at a Chicagoland hospice, she had seen many patients with family who could not afford the travel expenses to visit during their final days.
Her suggestion made it possible for a young college student to spend several days with her grandmother before she passed away. That was 2012.
Since then, Flying for Hope has provided flights and bus or train tickets to dozens of people who would have otherwise missed the opportunity to attend a funeral, spend time at nursing facilities or hospice, or have the ability to give care and comfort to family members.
In the early days of Worline’s organization, the Chicago Tribune did an article about a man from Texas whose trip to Chicago to visit his dying mother was made possible by Flying for Hope. The attention launched the organization to new heights in support of their motto: “Giving Hope to Families in Crisis – Changing Lives One Flight at a Time.” Word of their services began to spread, and requests for help starting pouring in.
Today, the nonprofit organization has more requests than it can accommodate, with more coming in daily. It keeps expenses low with an all-volunteer staff working pro bono.
“We support our mission through donations, community support, sponsors and local business partners coming together,” Worline said.
Now in its fourth year, the Spring Fever Gala (www.flying4hope.com/events) is the largest of those events. For the second year in a row, fellow UD alumnus and CBS Chicago reporter Dave Savini ’89 will serve as emcee for the event. Sponsors also make it possible to fill smaller requests that aid people in the local community who have transportation or mobility issues.
Other fundraising activities throughout the year also help grant requests, as well as the donation of frequent flyer miles or travel points. “We don’t want to turn anyone away. It is so hard knowing the situation they are in,” Worline said.
One of those individuals was Iraq War veteran Robert Dudley. He wanted to attend the funeral of his father, Robert Sr., who had served in Vietnam, and make sure he received a full military honors service. “Robert wanted to lay the American flag on his father’s coffin, pay his respects and say goodbye, but he didn’t have the money to get there. We provided a flight from Wisconsin to North Carolina, and Robert was able to ensure his father had the kind of funeral he deserved,” Worline said.
When asked if there was a particular case that has impacted her significantly, Worline offered the story of Trisha from Poughkeepsie, New York. Trisha’s dad had terminal cancer and lived in Arizona, and she wanted to spend time with him before he died. “We got her there and she spent a little over a week with him,” Worline said. “On her plane ride home her father passed away. Trisha thanked me for the gift of time with her father, and it changed how I viewed things in my own life, allowing me to reevaluate what is important. Time is a precious gift. We just have to stop for a moment once in a while to embrace the time given to us.”
Flying for Hope works to offer that precious gift to as many people as possible.
Sitting on a train, traveling across the country, Chris Rolfe felt the physical and emotional symptoms of more than half a year slowly dim. His stress took a small reprieve and hid away in some corner of himself. He recalls looking out the window and simply enjoying his surroundings and the company of strangers around him. In that moment, he relished the chance of just being Chris.
Just being Chris was unfamiliar territory for the Flyer soccer star turned pro. Since April 2016, Rolfe has struggled to come to terms with a debilitating concussion that effectively changed the course of his soccer career.
His journey has taken him through frustration, denial and anger, and now acceptance has slowly found its way to him.
“There was this voice inside of me — probably the same one that turned me into the soccer player that I am — that said, ‘Get over it. Let’s go. What’s happened has happened and you can’t control any of that now, so let’s move forward, let’s make it better, and let’s do the best that we can do and make the most of what you’re given in the future,’” Rolfe said.
Although that future is uncertain, Rolfe’s determination is not.
Since he was 7, soccer has been Rolfe’s world. A Kettering, Ohio, native, he went to Kettering Fairmont High School where, in only three years, he set the goal-scoring record.
He played at the University of Dayton from 2001 to 2004, where he set the school record for career assists (25) and was named an NSCAA All-American. In 2010 he was inducted into the Ohio Soccer Hall of Fame for his accomplishments in college.
Rolfe was drafted his senior year in the third round of the 2005 MLS SuperDraft by Chicago Fire and scored 30 goals in his first four seasons with the club. He was the team’s leading scorer in 2005, 2008 and 2012 and was the league’s runner-up rookie of the year in 2005.
In 2014 he was traded to D.C. United, where he thrived and was the team’s leading scorer and MVP in 2015.
As many of his friends say, in 2016 Rolfe was probably in the best physical shape that he’d ever been in as a professional athlete.
The team’s general manager Dave Kasper released a statement in September 2015 saying, “His ability to create and score goals has been vital to the team, and he is among a group of important veteran leaders in the locker room.”
But during a rainy, wet Chicago day, his training, physicality and leadership skills would all be tested for the unforeseeable future.
During the 32nd minute of an April 2016 match against Chicago Fire, Rolfe was putting pressure on Fire player Rodrigo Ramos near midfield.
D.C. had been favored early in the game, but the opponent seemed amped up.
As Rolfe intensified his defensive pressure, Ramos inadvertently elbowed him in the nose. It was a rough hit, Rolfe admitted, but he remained in the game, the competitor that he is, never imagining the injury could be serious.
Then, during halftime, Rolfe started noticing differences in the light patterns on the field. And even though the ground started to feel like it was moving underneath him, he stayed on the field until he was subbed out in the 72nd minute due to obvious symptoms noticed by the D.C. staff.
When he got to the locker room, he knew something was wrong.
He wasn’t able to focus — as if in a fuzzy dream world.
Looking at the light was excruciating.
His head hurt.
After speaking with medical staff, Rolfe was diagnosed with a concussion and was out for the rest of the season.
In the months since, his symptoms have been constant companions: Headaches. Extreme light sensitivity. Unsteadiness.
He describes the effects in his left eye as “bolts of pain going through the back of my eye into my head and back into my temples.”
Days and months drag on.
“I noticed problems with everything I did,” Rolfe said, noting he had difficulty concentrating and found it hard to filter out external and peripheral stimuli and noise.
Rolfe said he initially didn’t realize the severity of his injury, having recovered from concussions in the past.
“I’m used to playing with pain,” Rolfe said. “We joke that the only day you feel great is the first day of preseason, and after that you’re hurt. So I’m used to dealing with that stuff.”
In 2006 he had two concussions five days apart, and in 2014 suffered a devastating arm injury. But this injury has been more long-lasting.
Rolfe said the symptoms were at their worst one week after the hit, after gradually increasing in severity over the first seven days. But it wasn’t until the initial symptoms began to subside in mid- to late summer 2016 that he realized he was in bad shape.
“I didn’t even realize how severe my symptoms were. There was a moment in June or July that it started to become a reality. I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t leave the house. I would have to get a taxi, then keep my eyes closed in the backseat so I didn’t get sick when I got to where I was going,” he said.
In an emotional Washington Post article, he detailed going to the grocery store to buy an item but feeling overwhelmed by stimuli and struggling to find his product despite trips up and down the same aisle for several minutes.
As a professional athlete, Rolfe is a self-admitted overachiever and, although he was benched for the remainder of the 2016 season, he continued to work on the sidelines, going to practices, trying to work out and train. But in late September, Rolfe said he “hit a wall.”
Unlike past injuries, where training would help him get better, working out this time seemed only to exacerbate the symptoms.
“Whenever I tried to exercise, the symptoms would compound and become worse day by day,” Rolfe recalled. “If you try and strengthen your legs, you go to the gym, hit it hard and sure, your legs hurt, but you recover and get stronger. But it’s been the complete opposite with the brain and so it’s been counterintuitive to all of the rehab I’ve done for my career in the past.”
In November 2016, when D.C. United was knocked out of the playoffs, Rolfe decided he needed to get away.
He was tired of feeling bad. Tired of hurting. And tired of being stressed about recovery on an unknown timeline.
He made the decision to reset and booked himself a 22-day cross-country train trip — Chicago to San Francisco down to Los Angeles and back to Chicago.
There were stops in Denver; Aspen, Colorado; and Flagstaff, Arizona.
And in the last week of his trip, Rolfe began to feel normal — he didn’t think about the symptoms or the concussion and he was enjoying himself for the first time in eight months.
There were 10- to 12-mile hikes. For once, he said, he relented control of his surroundings and his symptoms seemed not to affect him as much.
“I had a train schedule, and I stuck to it. I let go of trying to have control of things for the most part and I just tried to enjoy being in that moment. I tried to enjoy the scenery and I enjoyed my meals with these random people who were sitting at the table with me in the dining car.
“I was not thinking about my head. Not worrying about what career was next. Not worrying if I was not going to play soccer ever again. Not worrying about what the fans thought about it or what my teammates thought.
“I was really able to get to the bare bottom of controlling my own life and letting go,” he said.
When the trip ended, the symptoms did return, but it didn’t matter as much because Rolfe had changed. And in that change, there has been personal growth and inspiration. His plans are simple: He says he wants to get his life back.
“It’s hard for me because I’m a goal setter and I like to know how to get from point A to point B. There have been plans, but I need to allow myself to be more fluid with what I do while I’m in rehab,” he said. “For me, it’s getting my life back, healing my head, returning to fitness and figuring out my soccer career.”
He notes that it’s also time for him to decide what comes next, since any athletic career has an expiration date. At 34, Rolfe acknowledges that even with a full recovery, he may only have a handful of years left in pro sports.
Although Rolfe kids when he says he doesn’t “have a lot of skills that translate to another occupation,” he has the traits that can make anyone successful.
“That’s the best thing about the competitive nature of what I’ve done and the team sport aspect of it,” he said. “I have a lot of great takeaways from what I’ve been doing.”
His determination is unquestionable. Always trying to improve, Rolfe has created what he calls “brain games.” Each morning, he recaps the day before: every detail, times he went places, people he was with, what they talked about, what he ate.
“I’m not sure what the science would say about that, but I believe it’s been beneficial,” he said. He also practices yoga and meditation along with physical therapy sessions.
While he wishes the injury never occurred, he finds goodness in everything that happens to him by acknowledging that the event has forced him to think about himself outside the soccer field. For now, he is officially on the 2017 D.C. United roster but cannot yet practice with the team.
His new journey may lead him to non-soccer options in the near future that would likely include work in financial planning and wealth management thanks to his new UD finance degree, which he received this May after putting his studies on hold in 2005.
“It’s forced me to take a look at who I am and what my identity is because, for 27 years now, I’ve been ‘Chris the soccer player,’ and if you want to go broader, ‘Chris the athlete,’” he said.
But ever the optimist, Rolfe is excited about his future, whatever that may be.
“It’s been great in that regard because I’ve now been forced to think deeper about who I am and the kind of person I want to be and what I now want to have define me,” he said.
And with a cautious but motivated smile, he added, “Now I have a chance to kind of dictate the next moniker to go along with who I am and what I’ll be known for going forward.”
As president of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Susan Zech ’93 has seen many thespians preparing for close-ups. The boutique college with campuses in New York and Los Angeles counts among its alumni Robert Redford, Grace Kelly, Lauren Bacall, Kirk Douglas, Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain, to name a few from its 132-year history.
“I consider it a privilege to lead an institution I so wholeheartedly believe in,” Zech said. “It’s a joy to do work that honors an important legacy and advances a mission I really care about. Actors are vital to our civilization. Art heals. Inspires. It holds a mirror up to society and helps audiences understand the human condition. What could be more thrilling?”
Zech wears many hats — strategist, problem solver, consensus builder and mentor — and credits UD’s Learn. Lead. Serve.
maxim as a central philosophy that has shaped her leadership style. “It’s funny how what resonated for me then has remained important over the years. As I’ve matured in my role, I’ve discovered more about leadership being rooted in service,” she said.
The Academy attracts a global student body representing nearly 40 countries and all 50 states. Zech says this diversity enriches the learning process both professionally and socially for students.
When not commuting between the two coasts for work, Zech spends time with family and friends. “There’s no place like New York. I’ve also found it’s important to find a beach, lake or mountaintop from time to time to recharge.”
So, would Zech ever utter that famous line from Sunset Boulevard, “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up”? Not likely.
“I have the greatest respect for actors. They are among the most courageous souls on earth. I get to contribute in a meaningful way to the development of young actors, but my calling is not to be on stage,” Zech said.
Filmmaker Cecil De-Mille, Academy Class of 1900, found many others who would.
The celebration started and ended with a focus on students, just as it should.
This April, during a jubilant four days, the Univer-sity inaugurated its 19th president, Eric F. Spina.
After a joyous Mass celebrated by Archbishop Dennis Schnurr, it was time to tour student talents — from a cappella singing by the Audio Pilots to to community building with a Walnut Hills Neighborhood picnic. Spina and his wife, Karen, got into the fun, acting out scenes from a living scrapbook with members of the improv troupe On the Fly.
His participation was an extension of the admiration he’s shown for UD students since he joined campus July 1, 2016.
“You never cease to amaze me,” he said. “You are our inspiration and our promise to the world.”
Spina’s optimism for the future and the impact UD students, alumni, faculty and staff will make in the world guided the program for the celebration.
During panel conversations Monday, April 3, professors in math, education and engineering shared a table where they discussed how their disciplines contribute to shared community solutions. Such cross-collaborations will be an intentional part of the University’s vision moving forward.
The innovation theme continued through Tuesday, April 4, when a keynote address and panel discussion focused on opportunities to create distinctive futures.
“Not everyone can be an inventor, creator or discoverer,” said 44-year IBM veteran Nicholas Donofrio during his address. “But everyone can be an innovator.”
With an eye toward ingenuity, the installation ceremony incorporated elements of both tradition and whimsy. Faculty and representatives of other universities marched into UD Arena to formal brass music, and at the conclusion danced and clapped their way out to jubilant tuba music alongside members of the Dayton Contemporary Dance Co. In between, the audience of more than 1,100 heard voices of the community, including those who shared what makes this “Our UD.”
For Dominic Sanfilippo ’16, it is “realizing that our big, complicated world is made more joyful and more just by sharing stories, taking risks and finding our voices together.”
Two former UD presidents — Brother Raymond Fitz, S.M., and Daniel Curran, both of whom remain active on campus — took the stage to embrace their newest counterpart before Spina shared his vision.
“I remember all the voices I have heard on campus, in alumni communities around the nation and in Dayton gatherings as we shaped our aspirational strategic vision to be ‘THE University for the Common Good,’” Spina later said. (Read more on the vision, Page 27).
The Celebration of the Arts performance was that evening, followed the next day by Stander Symposium presentations. The students — through grace, wit, sweat, inquiry and resolve — shared with the community the best of their education.
It was a celebration rooted in the optimism and vision of an ambitious president, in the transdisciplinary collaborations of faculty and staff, and in the impact students will make in the world as they strive for common good through a UD education.
“I’m still clapping,” Spina said after the performance. “And can’t wait for next spring’s encore.”No Comments
From a St. Joseph medal and the promise of $12,000, great things continue to grow. Building on faith and opportunity, the university founded on that promise is helping to create a school in Malawi, Africa. It will be a hub for experiential learning and research initiatives, supporting development in Malawi as well as the futures of the UD students who will serve there.
Amidst the winding, rugged dirt roads and atop the rolling green hillside, brick and mortar buildings have taken shape.
The sturdy man-made walls are in sharp contrast to the natural beauty, with the Great African Rift Valley and Lake Malawi both in view. It won’t be long before students and teachers walk among the classroom buildings and dormitories of the Wasambo High School campus. But it’s not the physical structures that will have the greatest impact; it’s what the buildings represent — opportunity.
“People in Malawi value education above almost everything else,” said Matt Maroon ’06, founder of Determined to Develop, a Karonga-based nongovernmental organization in Malawi. “I’ve seen mothers sacrifice food in order to pay school tuition for their children. I’ve seen families sell their last goat to send their promising son to the first term of high school, not knowing at all where they will get the money for the second term, let alone the following three years.”
Maroon has found the common theme in this land-locked African nation to be one that resonates more than 8,000 miles away on the campus of the University of Dayton, where students, faculty and alumni have worked with Maroon’s organization to make the school a reality for Malawian children.
“Faith — it’s people’s faith that tomorrow will be a brighter day with hard work, persistence and an education,” said Maroon, who first visited Malawi in 2006 during a year of service with the Society of Mary. “It’s the idea that one’s current condition need not assign them a set path in life, but that they have the choice if only given the opportunity to find the road toward prosperity. And that education is the surest way to lift one’s self to a state where one can comfortably, and humbly, take care of a family.”
It’s a faith reinforced by Flyer research, volunteerism and fundraising, from students and faculty in engineering, education, arts and sciences, and business. It is a faith that will also be passed on to future UD students, who will benefit from having the school as an experiential learning base. Wasambo High School, when it opens Sept. 1, 2017, will showcase the best of the University’s transdisciplinary, liberal arts education in the Marianist spirit of partner-based community building.
“UD is taking the exact opposite approach of an ivory tower, instead realizing that its talents and treasure can make a concrete and lasting impact on education in a global context — and that’s happening on the ground in Africa,” Maroon said. “This is the Marianist approach, to be around the table with the people whom we serve, partners in development and uplifting one another along the way. It’s intentional. It’s grounded in reality, and it’s faithful.”
A great need
The Society of Mary, UD’s founding order, is deeply rooted in Malawi, opening Nkhata Bay Secondary School in the early 1960s and, shortly thereafter, operating Chaminade Secondary School — which still educates students today — in Karonga. The Marianist sisters this year will open their own mission in Malawi and focus on teaching.
The population statistics of Malawi underscore the need for educational institutions: Close to 47 percent of the population is 14 years old or younger, and another 20 percent is between 15 and 24. The median age in Malawi — a country with an estimated 976,300 people living with AIDS or HIV — is just 16 ½ years old. According to Maroon, there are significant hurdles in the Malawian education system, including access to high school and quality education.
“Only about 18 percent of eighth-grade graduates, students in our area who have finished primary school, are able to continue on to high school because of capacity,” Maroon said. “There are simply not enough schools or room at the existing schools.”
Standard Malawian curriculum has not traditionally emphasized enrichment and experiential learning.
“We want to take the Malawian model — based off the British system — and infuse it with some of the best practices internationally,” Maroon said.
UD Department of Teacher Education Chair Connie Bowman is excited about her department’s involvement at Wasambo. Faculty and students will assist in professional development for teachers in Malawi, focusing on student-centered instruction and active engagement for learning, as well as curriculum development and recruitment.
“Many of our graduates are teaching in foreign countries,” Bowman said, “and we believe Malawi will be an excellent place for them to engage in teaching and infuse their training in best practices through the educational field.”
The first phase — which is currently under construction — is a boys’ high school, set up in an English boarding school style. The long-term plan includes a girls’ high school and a technical college.
The desired outcomes for Wasambo High School are threefold: provide a world-class education for the students; create a teacher training program that enables instructors to learn and implement best practices; and create a “living classroom” as part of the UD partnership where UD students and faculty can analyze challenges and work with Malawians to develop solutions.
The new school is located in Sangilo Village, Chilumba area in the Karonga District. This district is several hundred square miles with a population of about 60,000. Students will come from all around Malawi with an emphasis on offering positions and scholarships to local students. The impact of the school, however, extends well beyond the region.
“This is a benefit to the nation,” said Scotch Kondowe, Karonga District education manager. “In line with Malawi’s development strategies, strengthening secondary education is a top priority. To have a partnership with Determined to Develop and the University of Dayton is a welcome concept, and we are glad that outside stakeholders are taking interest in supporting government through the development of secondary education.”
While students will soon experience the immediate benefits of attending the new school, long-term benefits are expected for generations to come.
“Lack of education is a barrier to development,” said Senior Chief Wasambo (pictured left), the traditional authority and custodian of all land and culture in the region. “Having the school will change lives and opportunities, from poverty to prosperity, and it will transform the community for the better long term.”
The school, not coincidentally, is named in the chief’s honor, as it was he who allocated the 120 acres of land to Maroon in 2013 to establish the campus. The cost? Anyone familiar with the story of Father Leo Meyer and the purchase of the property on which the University of Dayton now stands will find the answer remarkable. Maroon paid about $12,000 to compensate a few local farmers for the land. In 1850, Father Meyer purchased 120 acres from John Stuart for the promise of $12,000 and a medal of St. Joseph as collateral. Maroon, likewise, presented Chief Wasambo with a St. Joseph medal.
Each entering class will consist of 80 boys from more than 50 elementary schools in the area. Some students at the all-boys boarding school will pay tuition, while others will receive scholarships. Looking forward, Wasambo will have 300-plus students onsite in four years.
“The community can see that there are not enough schools in our area,” said Alick Zika Mkandawire, a community liaison officer. “The schools we do have don’t have good learning materials and don’t have enough teachers. The new school will provide these, and the community is excited for good things to come.”
The Marianist way
Maroon’s connections with the University of Dayton have evolved and benefitted both the Malawians and UD students.
Students have worked on issues of human rights in Malawi with Determined to Develop since 2010. Since 2011, the School of Engineering’s ETHOS program has worked with Malawians on projects from renewable technology to potable water. The political science department initiated the Malawi Research Practicum on Rights and Development in 2013. The practicum, now housed in the Human Rights Center, pairs UD students with Malawian university students in-country to tackle development questions that give Determined to Develop insight into how it can best serve the community.
“It’s amazing when we have our UD students here, as they can dig into an issue and, with their Malawian counterparts, help us understand where we should focus our efforts,” Maroon said. “Their research gives credibility to our mission and influences the direction we take our programming.”
UD student research has been broad in scope, ranging from assessing community access to clean water to an assessment of gender-based violence against girls. From an examination of health systems to agricultural studies, the students work hand-in-hand with their Malawian counterparts.
“UD’s partnership with Determined to Develop and the people of Sangilo Village has grown organically over the years and has really been defined by the priorities and vision of our Malawian partners,” said Jason Pierce, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “It’s heartening to see the collaborative spirit that has emerged on campus and with our partners. Folks just get it and are eager to play a role.”
Collaboration has translated to action, and there’s no better example than Wasambo High School. UD practicum students have examined local challenges in access and quality of secondary school education. ETHOS students conducted land surveys and are helping with plans and construction. Teacher education faculty and students are working on curriculum and teacher training.
“In my mind, the Wasambo project vividly illustrates the capacity of UD as a comprehensive university, one that leverages students and faculty from engineering, education, business, and arts and sciences to find localized solutions to global challenges,” said Pierce, who as former chair of the political science department initiated the Malawi practicum.
More than an education
‘‘I’m happy because, now, there is an opportunity for my children to go to a good quality school,” Phiri said. “Teachers coming from outside Malawi will be able to help my children learn things like English and other skills quicker. If my children learn fast they can get good jobs, which will help our family lots in the future.”
Moses Mulungu, a local bricklayer and father, anticipates that his children will, one day, travel beyond Malawi thanks to Wasambo High School.
“They will only be able to do this by get-ting a good education and learning to read road signs and other important life skills,” Mulungu said.
While the parents are hopeful, the excitement of the students who may some day call Wasambo home builds with each passing day as the campus takes shape.
Since they broke ground in September 2016, much progress has been made on the physical facilities. The garage and storehouse are complete. The foundations for the head teacher’s house, boarding master’s house and volunteer teacher’s house are also complete. Maroon said building is expected to move quickly once the water system is in place. The water tower — which will hold four plastic 5,000-liter tanks for the gravity-fed water system — has been finished, as has the drilling for the three onsite wells.
Computer and multimedia labs will be among the facilities in the classroom blocks, and space has been reserved for a small outdoor amphitheater.
“My heart is pounding with excitement and nervousness,” said James Mayni, 14 (pictured left), who is looking forward to improving his English through the teaching of native English speakers. “I have always wanted to go to a boarding school, and this could be my dream come true. I will keep hoping that my next chapter of my life at Wasambo High School awaits.”
Lowani Chirwa, 14, is also hopeful that he will be in the initial class of students admitted to Wasambo. His goal is to become one of the most educated people in his village and to fine-tune his English, as Wasambo will be an English-speaking campus.
“I believe that I will be able to learn higher reasoning skills, since the teachers will be highly educated,” Chirwa said. “I am looking forward to becoming a good, fluent English speaker.”
Rick Pfleger, a 1977 UD graduate, has been on board since the beginning of Maroon’s development work in Malawi in 2008. He and his wife, Claire Tierney Pfleger ’78, met Maroon when he was a UD student living near their daughter, Lindsay Pfleger ’06.
“When Matt first decided he wanted to stay in Malawi, we wanted to help him financially,” Rick Pfleger said. “His goal was to start an orphanage for children who had lost their parents to AIDS. At the time, we thought if he got 10 to 15 orphans under roof, it would be a home run. He now has 45-plus orphans in dormitories, four nurseries and preschools, and serves more than 500,000 meals a year in the community.
“I never envisioned he would stay this long, much less have the incredible impact he has had in Chilumba. Matt has become a fixture in the community, even to the point where the village chiefs made him an honorary member of their group,” Pfleger said.
Maroon brings two or three young members of the community to Chicago annually to meet the Pflegers.
“From the very beginning, we have been amazed by the spirit and optimism of these children,” Pfleger said. “When they share their stories with us, it enthuses us even more to continue our annual support. They are incredibly sincere, hopeful and grateful.
“Determined to Develop is certainly one of the most encouraging and fulfilling projects we have ever been involved with. We could not be more proud of Matt and what he has accomplished in the Marianist spirit.”
The Pflegers’ contribution to UD’s experiential-learning mission in Malawi has helped make Wasambo a reality. The wider UD community has also contributed, including a $10,000 fundraising initiative in 2014 by the University of Dayton student chapter of Determined to Develop.
“The Pflegers’ faith in UD, Determined to Develop and the Sangilo Village is inspiring.” Pierce said. “I am profoundly grateful for their support of this project and for seeing early on the impact the partnership could have in the community and the life-altering experiential learning opportunities it provides our students.” Pierce added that fundraising continues for future experiential learning opportunities for UD students.
While Wasambo will be life changing for the young people who attend school there, the experience of working in Malawi has also been life changing for those who have shared their time and talents with the people of the region.
“One of the most meaningful things I have learned from my time in Malawi is that no matter who you are you can probably help someone, know someone that can help, or you have the resources to learn how,” said Rob Greene (pictured left in red T-shirt, with members of the planning and work crew, including Matt Maroon, far right), an ETHOS graduate student currently working on the Wasambo project. “Being in Malawi has also made me rethink relationships and truly value them. Of course making friends halfway around the world and then leaving is one difficult aspect, but you could sit down with someone and immediately know 100 ways that you are different, but all you need is one similarity, one point to connect. Surprisingly you’ll find that not only are you not that different, but you can probably help each other.”
Greene — who is working toward a master’s degree in civil and environmental engineering with a focus in environmental engineering — has been working as a project manager onsite and with Maroon on future construction plans.
“At times, it seems like ETHOS has only complicated my plans, but now I understand that I don’t only have an opportunity but also a degree of responsibility to act to better benefit my community and greater world community,” Greene said.
Department of Political Science Chair Grant Neeley has seen firsthand the impact the work in Malawi has had on the practicum students.
“It’s a tremendous learning experience and, in some cases, it most definitely shapes their career plans,” Neeley said. “But, regardless of their career path, this experience equips them with a greater understanding of how to work in a community setting. They gain a respect for others and their opinions and an ability to work through challenges, and that’s incredibly valuable because no matter where they go, they will be in a community.”
“It’s a reflection of the commitment and passion of the community in Malawi, Matt, and UD,” he said. “It’s exciting to see our faculty and students engage in work that resonates so deeply with the Marianist mission.”
Pierce anticipates University of Dayton involvement with Wasambo and in Malawi well into the future.
That’s music to Maroon’s ears.
“The longer I am here in Africa, the more I realize that people have the same goals, no matter their culture or differences,” Maroon said. “We all want to push ourselves forward and we want to take care of our families. We all have the same motivations; to be happy, healthy, useful, fulfilled, valued and loved. This school will allow that impact to multiply the current work that we are doing. It will be a transformational force for families that will ripple from each person who passes through. We are transforming a society and are building another pathway to prosperity. How exciting is that?”
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
In 1998, the College of Arts and Sciences talked of sowing the seeds for human rights professionals who could collaboratively transform conversations and communities around the world. Today, those alumni serve in seven countries and numerous organizations dedicated to bettering the human condition. Here’s a look at where some alumni of the 2014 Malawi Research Practicum on Rights and Development, featured in the Winter 2014-15 UD Magazine, are today thanks to a UD education that transcends traditional disciplinary boundaries.
Alyssa Bovell ’14
Associate director of Project Partnerships IPM (International Partners in Mission)
“The interrelated challenges that impede the social, economic and political empowerment of women inspired me to pursue a human rights-based career in development. Women’s economic agency as a force of global poverty reduction has become an issue of international importance that I’ve become passionate about. [The practicum] has led to my current position at an international nonprofit that is focused on supporting women with equal access to resources and services to transform and sustain their communities.”
Jed Gerlach ’15
International programs assistant, Plan International USA
“It was great to be part of [Determined to Develop], a grassroots organization that was doing such great work with the resources given to them — an organization that not only helped people, but empowered them. To see that, as a student, had a great impact on me: on where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do.”
Jason Hayes ’15
International program coordinator, Operation Smile
“You can study these things in a classroom and read every textbook out there but, at the end of the day, it’s just not the same. It doesn’t have an emotional effect until you get there and you see, firsthand, what the realities are. It was huge for me. I would highly recommend fieldwork. It affirmed for me the work I wanted to do.”
Andrew Lightner ’16
London School of Economics
“[The Malawi practicum] introduced me to wonderful people, fascinating research and exciting future opportunities. I have difficulty describing its impact, as I cannot recognize my worldview, experience at UD or current career trajectory without the practicum. I am currently studying international development and economics and aim to continue research in international and economic issues. The values and relationships Determined to Develop helped me form will continue to drive my career and non-career decisions.”No Comments
Wide eyes, open minds, contagious laughter. The whimsical sounds of children exploring interactive exhibits keep Jan Wrzesinski the happiest she can be at her job as the executive director of the Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center in Mobile, Alabama.
A communication major while at UD, Wrzesinski had a stint working in radio broadcasting early in her career, where she was known as Jan McKay. She now finds herself with more than 25 years of experience working in museums.
And, she says there’s never a boring day. As the executive director, Wrzesinski blends her skills to work on fundraising,
communications, planning and outreach to the community.
“The Exploreum is a very exciting place. Our mission is to inspire a love of math and science among all citizens, in particular school children, through summer camps, special demonstrations, and other hands-on learning opportunities,” she said.
She recalled the time when NASA gave a moon rock to the Explorerum for two weeks. Although there was a high level of security surrounding the extraterrestrial object, the museum guests enjoyed the opportunity to see firsthand a piece of outer space.
Ultimately, Wrzesinkski said she hopes the museum experience provides an additional learning environment for children to appreciate the world around them: “We help bridge the formal classroom learning environment with group and individual science activities. We make it fun.”
Wrzesinski enjoys the challenges of running the museum, which has a $2 million budget, to help maintain the three permanent galleries, several rotating galleries and the pre-kindergarten demonstration area.
Children can participate in chemistry experiments, learning how to cook healthy, examining the lungs of smokers, and taking part in other hands-on activities.
“Kids mean a lot to me in the work that I do,” she said. “To me, all kids are precious.”
—Karina Cabrera ’18 and Gita BalakrishnanNo Comments
More than 20,000 health care providers across the world wear a golden, penny-sized lapel pin on their white coats. In the middle of the pin sits a red enamel heart surrounded by the phrase “The Healer’s Art.”
This spring, the UD Physician Assistant Program became the first PA program to offer The Healer’s Art course. The pin, given to course graduates, serves as a reminder of lessons learned, but it also is an invitation for providers to approach one another in a time of need.
The Healer’s Art course is a product of the Remen Institute for the Study of Health and Illness at Wright State University (Ohio) Boonshoft School of Medicine. Dr. Rachel Remen designed the course in 1991 to address topics not usually discussed in medical school. Deep listening, acceptance, grief and loss, healing and self-care are some of the topics found on the syllabus.
“The course is both transformative and informational,” said Dr. Evangeline Andarsio, director of the National Healer’s Art Program. “It takes vision and courage to be innovators and the first PA program to offer the course.”
Twenty-two students took five sessions of the optional, ungraded course that required open ears and no textbooks.
Student Paige Brennan said the sessions facilitated a bond among the students and an awareness of emotions often not nurtured during a rigorous medical curriculum.
“The class gives you the tools necessary to bring out your best self,” Brennan said. “We will be more compassionate providers.”No Comments
When Brother Blaise Mosengo, S.M., joined the Marianists, he, like all vowed religious, accepted the call to go wherever God needed him.
During the last five and a half years, that place has been the University of Dayton.
“I came to UD as a mission,” Mosengo said. “I live in a community of people who teach here and work here. That’s their mission. God called me to go to UD and to study. That’s my mission — to be a student.”
A native of the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly known as Zaire), Mosengo came to UD in fall 2011 when Marianist superiors wanted him to obtain a master’s degree to enhance his administrative skills. Mosengo, a high school principal in the neighboring
Republic of Congo and 2013 graduate of UD’s educational leadership program, is now working on his doctorate.
Mosengo is one of about five international Marianists pursuing advanced degrees at the University with the goal of returning to their home nations to strengthen established missions there. With Asia and Africa providing the bulk of the Catholic Church’s growth in the late 20th and early 21st century, the Marianists see those two continents as crucial to spreading the Gospel, and established Marianist schools there already educate thousands of students annually.
“How can we assist our growing presence in the developing world? We have an excellent university,” said Father Jim Fitz, S.M. ’68, who lives in the Stonemill community with Mosengo. “We can bring them here for academic studies, especially from east and west Africa and India. It’s one thing we can contribute at the University of Dayton to the worldwide Marianist community: educating them so they can then enhance their educational missions at home.”
Fitz, vice president for mission and rector, said the Marianists commit to supporting advanced degree study at UD for four to five international members at a time, and an alumnus, who chooses not to be named, funds their living expenses. Brothers from Kenya, Congo, India and Togo, among other nations, are currently completing graduate work.
“Having these men here allows us to maintain a global perspective,” Fitz said. “We’re not just ‘filling holes.’”
Father Ignase Arulappen, S.M., is another member of the Stonemill community studying at UD with assistance from the Marianists. “Father Iggy,” as he’s nicknamed, was executive director of the University of Dayton Deepahalli Educational Center in Bangalore, India, before coming to UD in August 2016.
Arulappen taught theology in India and is completing a doctoral program in theology with a focus on Mariology through the International Marian Research Institute. When he’s done, he plans to return to Bangalore.
“All my life as a Marianist, I have been teaching and administering a formation program,” he said. “My interest in education was already there, and the Provincial Council in the United States and the Regional Council in India made a request to me to see if I wanted to take a break from my work and do these studies.”
During their time here, the international Marianists also get involved in the greater UD community. Arulappen presides at the Eucharist at Holy Angels Church adjacent to campus, and the communities host students for dinner and conversation. Mosengo has developed friendships with students from China and Saudi Arabia through the Center for International Programs, and they often reflect on the commonalities they share beyond their individual faith traditions.
“We come from different faiths, but we come together to talk about one God,” Mosengo said.
The international Marianist presence in Dayton extends beyond the men receiving graduate-level scholarships. Koreans study at the novitiate at Mount Saint John, as no novitiate exists in South Korea, and five Marianist sisters from Vietnam, Italy and India have studied on campus, learning English through the Intensive English Program.
The international Marianist network isn’t a one-way connection either. Other partnerships develop when American-born UD students spend time at international Marianist missions in places like Zambia, Kenya and Malawi. Fitz notes the example of Matt Maroon ’06, who spent a year at a mission in Malawi and remains there more than a decade later operating the nonprofit charity Determined to Develop.
As for the Marianists who do earn advanced degrees and return to Africa and Asia, they’re already making a difference. Brother Basant Kujur, S.M., earned a master’s degree in human services in 2010 and works as a scholasticate director in Bangalore as well as a faculty member at the Deepahalli Educational Center.
“The UD environment opened up a new horizon for me to see the new reality of Marianist pedagogies of education,” Kujur said. “I am very grateful to all my professors and classmates, Marianist brothers, sisters and
fathers, and the entire UD environment for giving me a golden opportunity to learn and to be formed as what I am. I am grateful to
God and to my Marianist family.”
Mosengo, the Congolese high school principal, noted that the United States is currently the only nation with Marianist universities, meaning Marianist higher education is unavailable to most of those they serve.
“In many countries in Africa, parents and students will complain that we provide education until a student graduates from high school, but there’s no follow-up,” Mosengo said. “The idea is that we can start having a Marianist presence at a higher educational level in the countries where we are.”
With his impending doctoral degree, Mosengo hopes to further that mission.
“I would love to teach in college, but I can also help in the administration,” he said. “I want to go back somewhere in Africa, but which country, I don’t know. I know what I would like to do, but I will wait and see where they ask me to go.”